Most agree that chocolate can make any day brighter. But while it may produce a happier you, can chocolate actually promote a healthier you, with healthy skin and all? The answer is, yes—sometimes.
Derived from cacao beans—the seeds found in the pods that grow on a cacao tree—the use of chocolate can be traced back to early Aztec cultures, where it was used to concoct both cold and warm beverages. To create the varieties of chocolate treats enjoyed all over the world today, the beans are roasted and ultimately made into powder to which ingredients are added. It’s really those added ingredients that determine whether the chocolate you eat can enhance your diet and skin care efforts, or wreak havoc with them.
The Good: Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate contains high levels of cacao and little added sugar. Because of this, it is rich in flavonoids—warriors of the cellular world that fight the free radicals that cause disease, cancer, and signs of aging. Beyond this, dark chocolate contains high levels of fiber for aiding in digestion and balancing blood sugar levels; iron for healthy blood; copper for a healthy nervous system; magnesium for keeping a number of your body’s systems functioning well, and for boosting bone mass and building cells; and, a number of other nutrients. All of this contributes to a healthy body and beautiful, healthy skin.
Dark chocolate is also thought to increase serotonin levels, and it contains phenyethylamine, a natural stimulant that is said to create the euphoric feeling of falling in love. Plus, dark chocolate gives you a dose of caffeine—another stimulant that can enhance mood. All said, eating a moderate amount of high-quality dark chocolate (containing 70 to 85% cacao) can certainly benefit your health and your skin care regimen.
The Bad: Milk Chocolate
While you will get some health and skin care benefits from eating milk chocolate, they are not as far-reaching as they are with dark chocolate. In addition, the added milk in the creamier, sweeter version of this treat can cause inflammation. This is particularly important for people with sensitive skin issues or acne, as the addition of dairy can create flare-ups. Milk chocolate also tends to contain high levels of hydrogenated oils and has double or more the sugar of high-quality dark chocolate, while only providing about a quarter of the fiber. Levels of other nutrients are also diminished due to the addition of other ingredients—all depleting milk chocolate’s healthy body and healthy skin benefits.
The Beautiful: Cocoa Butter and Beyond
Cocoa butter is the vegetable fat harvested from the cacao bean. It is used in a number of food and skin care products. Because cocoa butter melts at about room temperature, it is a good moisturizer for the skin. It is particularly beneficial for areas that are prone to excessive dryness, such as the hands and lips. As it is all-natural, it can be an ideal option for people with skin sensitivities, helping to promote healthy skin.
It is not just cocoa butter that is used in skin care treatments, though. Chocolate itself has emerged as an item of choice on spa menus and do-it-yourself website pages. It is believed that the high nutritional content in chocolate, paired with its cocoa butter content, provide the perfect skin-enhancing product: antioxidants protect skin’s collagen and elastin for firmer, more supple tone; caffeine helps to reduce puffiness and inflammation, while stimulating circulation; and, the scent releases all those feel-good endorphins, which promote overall well-being.